The Saga Continues…
The Black Facts About AIDS/HIV!
By Nevin Jefferson
Usually during Black History Month I write a very powerful and colorful Saga from the eyes and mind of a Gay Black Man. With the help from the Black Aids Institute I’m going to raise the bar this year. The Black Aids Institute published a report entitled “The Time is Now!” last Tuesday (February 1st which officially began Black History Month) that gets down about the low-down and dirty about how AIDS/HIV disproportionately infects and kills Black Americans. This shines the spotlight on the Black Community with AIDS/HIV taking center stage. In the report you’ll read that Blacks make up 54% of annual new infections, though they are just 13% of the population. Black teens account for 2/thirds of new AIDS cases among teens, but are only 15% of the national teen population. According to the report one out of every three gay or bisexual Blacks may contract HIV by the time he is 30. (I was one of them, so I can attest to this fact!) Once diagnosed positive, the Black AIDS Institute notes that Blacks are 7 times more likely to die than their Caucasian counterparts. The Black AIDS Institute also points out that Blacks in HIV treatment were twice as likely as Whites to have not received “combination therapy,” which is credited with reducing AIDS death rates. “For Black America, the moment of truth has arrived. If we‘re going to survive this epidemic, we are going to have to gather all of our resources and marshal them for the struggles that lay ahead.” said Black AIDS Institute Executive Director Phill Wilson. The report also mentions the fact that news reports on the AIDS epidemic have decreased by 57% between 1996 and 2002. The below chart illustrates this point from the CDC Diagnoses updated in 2004 with findings ending in 2002.
Estimated Numer of Diagnoses of HIV/AIDS 1999-2002 Black Men=49% Black Women=72% White Men=37% White Women=18% Hispanic=13% Hispanic=9% Other=1% Other=1% Men=72,323 Women=30,264 25% of people are infected with AIDS/HIV and don’t know it. The Black AIDS Institute uses a recent RAND Corp. report about Black American attitudes as their explanation that explains it all and then some. Okay? There’s a widespread belief in “conspiracy theories” about the origin of the virus and government efforts to withhold treatments and cures from those infected in the Black Community. “These beliefs stern from an undeniable reality: Public health has consistently failed Black America, sometimes deliberately neglecting its needs. In this context, conspiracies about HIV persist because the community has not been adequately informed about the actual political, cultural and socio-economic forces driving the epidemic. The Institute is dedicated to giving Black America the information its needs to move beyond imagined enemies, so that we can start fighting our all-too-real ones.” Phill Wilson. “From the very beginning of the epidemic, Afro-Americans (Blacks) have been disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS. Certainly we had to deal with the widespread sense of denial and stigma in the African-American community (Black Community) that did not fully recognize the problem. So efforts to stern the epidemic were not as successful as they were in other communities, like among White gay men. We’ve come a long way, but we have disproportionately fewer resources in the efforts of prevention that fail to address the issues of prevention adequately.” Ronald Johnson, associate executive director of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) in New York City. (New York City?! I couldn’t resist this one gang!). The Black AIDS Institute also states that “although there are now more Americans diagnosed with AIDS than ever before 42% of whom are Black funding for the primary Federal AIDS program has remained flat for the last three fiscal years. In fact, portions of it have been cut.” The Black AIDS Institute concluded that Congress needs to increase funding for HIV/AIDS treatments, control the cost of medications, provide more comprehensive sex education in schools and urge more States to adopt needle exchange programs. Nuff said, okay? By ignoring and avoiding gay culture at all costs that they perceive as white and effeminate, many Black men have created their own category with its own vocabulary and customs and its own name: LOW DOWN. Yes, there have always been men both Black and White who have had secret sexual lives with men. But this is a creation of an organized, underground subculture largely made up of Black men who otherwise live straight lives is a phenomenon of the last decade. Many of these men are young and from the inner city, where they live in a hyper masculine ‘THUG’ culture. I wrote about this years before Oprah featured it on her show along with a Black Man who wrote the book. Men on the Low Down form romantic relationships with men and may even be peripheral participants in mainstream gay culture, all unknown to their colleagues and families. Most men on the Low Down identify themselves not as gay or bisexual but first and foremost as Black men with no revealing queer qualities. To them, as to many Blacks, this equates to being inherently masculine. With the majority of them being “Big Sissies” who parade around the Black Community like oversized girls. The Low Down culture has grown, in recent years, out of the shadows and developed its own contemporary institutions, for those who know where to look: gay bars, bathrooms, rest stops, bathhouses, Web sites, Internet chat rooms, private parties and special nights at clubs. These are the safe places for men out on the Low Down to let down their guards because they‘re not any wives or girlfriends around. They go where there aren’t many white men present and that’s often the norm for some Low Down parties and clubs. Some private Low Down events won’t even let Whites in the door. Others will let you in if you look ‘Black Enough,’ which is code for looking masculine, tough and ‘straight.’ Not all guys out on the Low Down are attracted only to men of color. Many a Black boy loves White boys! Over the years the Low Down culture has come to the attention of alarmed and appalled public health officials, some of whom regard men out on the Low Down as an infectious bridge spreading HIV to unsuspecting wives and girlfriends. In 2001, almost two-thirds of women in the United States who found out they had AIDS were Black. This phenomenon from hell has its underlying effects on women and children who are infected by their so-call Black man who are totally into pussy. African American women are most likely to be infected with HIV as a result of sex with men. They may not be aware of their male partners’ possible risks for HIV infection such as unprotected sex with multiple partners, bisexuality, or injection drug use. Women who suspect that their partners are at risk for HIV infection may be reluctant to try to negotiate condom use. For example, some women may not insist on condom use out of fear that the man will leave them or withdraw financial support. Black Men are out on the “LOW DOWN” because they don’t want society to know about their sexual relations with men. They date women to cover themselves with an arm piece for the straight public and family functions . Or are heterosexual males who prefer women but occasionally have sex with men then lie about it. Studies show that they are largely contributing to the rise of HIV infection among Black women. A particular study by the Centers for Disease Control found that men on the Low Down often don’t tell their female partners about their bisexual behavior nor do they use condoms with their female or male partners. I was featured in a segment for the News Media about the HIV/AIDS crisis among Blacks for Black Aids Awareness Day. This has yet to be shown on the Nightly News nor on any of the Cable Stations. Gee, I wonder why? My Best friend of 27 years was pissed at me for writing about Black men out on the low-down until recently. Why the change of heart? Because he was being hazed as a potential “HO” for a Low Down Club and didn’t know it until I shone light on this subject that he was in total darkness about. I would have written a Saga about this one but had I done so, we wouldn’t make 28 years of friendship. This is now a touchy topic between us that’s never to be bought up again as conversation in this lifetime. I won’t be sending him a copy of this Saga no time too soon. The things that you do for friends! Wanted: I’m looking for interesting, unique, and unusual gays and lesbians who make the gay community a better place to be. Yes, you too can be the topic of a Saga Interview. You’ll either amuse or appall your friends, family, and everyone who you’ve met in your life. I’m penning for gays in the military, cops, firemen, and from all walks of occupations complete with personalities that balance out the rest of their person that makes an interesting Saga. It’s your story, not mine. I just write it as I ask it. Interested? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at the lovely office of The Seattle Gay News.
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